“What the 1 percent like are unique experiences,” said Lee Schrager, the festival’s organizer. “They want access. It’s what everyone wants, but the 1 percent can afford it. They want intimate.”
The heat is at the higher end, which explains why American Express paid around a dozen social media influencers $1,000 to $10,000 to file dispatches from its Platinum House, a rented mansion on the side of Aspen’s ski mountain, during this year’s Food & Wine Classic. Stephanie Izard, a Chicago chef who was the first woman to win the “Top Chef” title, prepared Instagram-ready meals over three days.
In an interview, Erin Maxwell, director for brand partnerships at American Express, said that determining which chefs to bring on board was as simple as noting where high-spending cardholders seek reservations from the company’s concierge service. “We use that data to know where to be,” she said.
Similarly, American Express noticed a lot of purchases of tickets to this spring’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and set up a Platinum House in the Palm Springs, Calif., area.
At the inaugural Arroyo Seco Weekend, a music festival held in June at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., the organizers of Coachella showed their understanding that those buying $400 V.I.P. tickets to see acts like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Andrew Bird would be eager to pay for unique dining options. Available was a $120 picnic basket from République, the Los Angeles bistro, that included two desserts: a rectangle of salted caramel chocolate cake and a square peach crisp.
Forget the bad brown acid of Woodstock. Food is a powerful way to transport festivalgoers mentally — and to keep them coming back, said Nic Adler, culinary director for Coachella and Arroyo Seco.
“I’m just trying to get you to have that bite,” Mr. Adler said. “Close your eyes, go somewhere else, open them up and realize, ‘Oh wow.’”
Many chefs at the Aspen festival said they had cooked privately for patrons who bought their services at charity auctions. Ms. Izard fetched $25,000 to benefit Alex’s Lemonade Stand, a children’s cancer foundation. Mike Lata, owner of two restaurants in Charleston, S.C., yielded around $34,000 at a James Beard Foundation event to prepare dinner for 12 at the home of Wenda Harris Millard, the digital advertising executive. An up-and-comer, Katie Button of Curate in Asheville, N.C., raised $8,000 to benefit the area’s Downtown Welcome Table food program. She agreed to cook dinner for eight for a banker, Dana L. Stonestreet.
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